A Guide To Collecting Advertising: Preservation, Buying And Other Tips

A guide to collecting, preserving, storing and appraising antique advertising, from posters to roadside signs to store catalogs.

Advertising is everywhere and has been for centuries. Postcards, flyers, billboards, labels, and other advertising have become popular collectibles, but the problem lies with figuring ways to preserve these items, since most are merely paper or cardboard and some of these items are extremely large. Since paper is somewhat acidic, it will break down over time, but you can help prevent the destruction of your advertising memorabilia by keeping it out of direct sunlight, limiting the temperatures and humidity that your memorabilia is exposed to, and using mylar or polypropylene sleeves or pages to protect the paper. This will work for some items like labels and business cards, but for larger paper items, different storage methods should be implemented.

Posters are a popular form of advertising which can be very valuable but can present the collector with many problems. First off, identifying a genuine old movie poster from a reproduction can sometimes be difficult. And the signs that point to it being authentic are often the marks which take away from its value. Horizontal and vertical folds are one sign that it might be genuine, but the folds of the poster wear and fade quicker, lowering its value. Staple, tack or tape marks point at a previous hanging at a theater, but can significantly decrease the worth. Other tell-tale signs that it could be the real thing are spill marks, butter stains and writing or doodling. After locating a poster which is authentic and in good shape, it's vital that you store it properly to prevent damage. Many collectors have old posters mounted on fabric to keep them from tearing and to smooth out fold lines. When purchasing a poster which has been "linen-backed", ask to see the receipt for the work. Also check to see if there is a copyright date at the bottom of the poster in fine print.

Postcards are a form of advertising which some businesses sent out to preferred customers. When trying to determine the age of the card, check the postal mark. If there's no postal mark, another sign that the card is genuine is the look and feel of the paper. Usually older postcards used thicker card stock and newer postcards have a slicker feel to them. Old postcards can be kept in albums which have cling sheets to protect them, or individually in a zipper lock bag. Whenever possible, store the cards standing up rather than lying down, to prevent them from sticking to their covers. It's possible that some pieces of your advertising collection are not paper, but printed directly onto a bottle, wood piece or can. For these items, store in acid-free boxes or containers, wrapping them securely with plastic or bubble wrap before storing. For cans and bottles specifically, store where these can't possibly get broken and do not stack items on top of each other. Extra large metal items, such as a Coca-Cola sign can be well wrapped and placed in a crate or barrel for storage. Advertising such as what used to be painted on barn roofs can be restored, still on the roof, but if the building is torn down, it can be next to impossible to store the advertising unless you have a warehouse.

Places to purchase old advertising items are online and area auctions, antique shows, country merchants, yard sales, flea markets, estate sales, and grandparents' attics and basements. Advertising can come in many forms, a few of them being: business cards, greeting cards, flyers, calendars, stationery, newspapers, invoices, catalogs, packaging supplies and slips, paperweights, and old roadside signs. A great source for finding out what your collection is worth, or for finding the value of a piece you desire, is the local library. There are hundreds of books with photos, descriptions and things to look for to authenticate. There are also many great online sites where you can view the collections of others, find out what yours might be worth and learn to spot deals, sell and trade, or store and preserve.

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